Author’s Note: Sorry for the delay in the race report, but I just got the tears cleared from my eyes!
OK. Where was I….. Oh yeah. Training for the ESG last weekend was well awesome. Like I mentioned, we have lots of young kids who are starting to slide this year. After the practice was finished Saturday night I was talking with them to see how they were doing. I asked one how her training session went and her mom chimed in that she had a difficult time. “Don’t worry. I have found that how you slide the night before a race has very little to do with how you end up finishing the next day.”
That’s true. I have had great nights training and rough days racing. Rough days training, and great races. Good training and good races. There doesn’t seam to be a lot of correlation in how I do based on how I slide the night before. That makes race day very very interesting indeed. Which Doug would show up?
The field for the Masters race had 11 sleds. Three of the “A” sliders from the club, the current US Masters Champion (he came from Utah to slide with us), six of the “B” sliders (me one of those), and a world champion street luger who found his way to the ice this winter. A couple of the club “B” sliders have not slid a lot this winter, but are usually a little faster than I am. Of the other “B” sliders I had been slower than two of them this season and faster than one of them. The street luger? He has a lot of experience sliding, just not on ice. The time we saw him in the fall he was pretty good (faster than me). Realistically going into the weekend I was looking at a 9th (out of 11) place finish going into the weekend.
When Sunday morning came around I was extremely calm. I had had a good night’s sleep. We got geared up and headed to the start. The start house was total chaos. There were 30 sliders (the old guys plus a bunch of 10-13 year old kids) trying to fit in a 15′x20′ shack. Hard to find a little space to get ready, and hard to find a quiet place to find a zone. Since the Masters sliders were last I knew it would clear out and I would get a little quiet time to focus so I tried to just go with the flow. Jim (the club guru) came up to me and gave me a fist bump (luge equivalent of a hand shake or high five since we have spikes on our fingers) and said “You are sliding awesome. I want two good ones out of you this morning.” (The race was best of two runs.)
The order for the first run of the race was by random draw, and I drew the first spot. Time to set the bar. One of the officials was a friend who I have slid with before. He told me he watched the sliding the night before on the webcast and was impressed with how I was sliding. My sled and I were checked in (weight and steel temps are controlled, they have to be in spec) and I approached the line.
One of the national team coaches was there supervising the kids. I had been teasing him about wiping my booties before I raced (the coaches do that in big races for their athletes, gotta keep everything aerodynamic!). I approached the line. The coach came up to me and wiped my booties with a big grin. I put down my face shield and pulled off. My run was pretty darn good. When I got to the finish I anticipated my higher speed after crossing the finish line and started to brake so I could look up at the board. 46.6 seconds. My slowest time of the weekend, but still WAY faster than I had slide before, ever.
At the finish of an official race a certain number of sleds are selected at random to be measured. No one wants to be controlled. Of course I was. That meant that my sled was checked. Then I had to strip down to my undies so they could weight me, my equipment, and then my sled. The result was I did not hear the times from most of the other sliders on their first runs. I did catch that Jim slide a run in the 47 second range which was hugely unusual for him (he is normally a low 45 second slider). Jim was controlled too. We call this the “insult to injury” control. Seams like a bad run in a race is ALWAYS followed by being controlled. By the time it was all sorted out I was in 4th place after the first run. I was a little bit back from the first 3, but close enough that if one of them messed up the second run I could sneak in for a medal. Holy hell. The “B” group had all slide runs that were in the 47 second range. I was well ahead of that pack.
Back up to the top for the second run. We went in reverse order for the second run, which put me in the position to be the last slider of the group. Jim was early and laid down a blistering run (he had to make a point to our guest from Utah that this was OUR track not his) which ended up being the fastest run of the day by about half a second. The other “A” sliders all had good runs. A medal was out of my reach, but I could make a statement of my own to the “B” group.
I remember being at the line and having the voice in my head start to wonder when I was going to lay down a crap run. Yeti: “Been a while since you had a real stinker…..” Doug: “No worries, I am going to nail this one.” Off I went.
When I got to the finish line I looked up: The board said: 46.42 (5). Fifth place. Another new personal best, and my fastest two heat race time ever!
I knew going into my run that Jim’s second run was fast enough that I would have had to be close to a 45 second run to get him for 4th. I had that run going. I had to make two corrections in the chicane to keep off the wall. (Coreen was watching my run from the lodge on the video feed. She asked if I actually hit the wall in the chicane. I was that close. Nope, but I had to steer, and lost time). I steered just a wee bit to hard in the last two corners. That cost me a time that would have put me closer to a 45 second and in the hunt for a 4th place finish.
Here is how you know you are “getting it” on a luge. And by this I mean when you get past the stage of being happy about NOT regularly hitting walls! I slide a PB in that last run, and I know a) that I left time on the track and b) I know where I left that time. I am starting to see and feel the little things.
Going in to the weekend I wanted to beat my personal best and race well. In the end I obliterated my PB. I hit a top end speed of 87.17 kph (over 54 mph!) for the first time in Lake Placid. Those speeds are right in line with the guys sliding 45 second runs. It was my best race to date and a great weekend of sliding.
We have one more month on the track. 5 weeks of sliding in March with the annual spring race on March 15.
My luge goals? Short term to continue to slide 46 second runs and improve my PB (there is a 45 second run in me I KNOW it). The spikes are going onto my gloves for the spring. It’s time to seriously work on get my start times down, and really really do a luge run. I’ve been delaying that because it was a distraction I didn’t need while learning how to slide properly. Oh, and I want to dominate the spring race “B” group (sorry Jenni and Jim Waterhouse ).
Longer term? I want to earn my place in the “A” group and I want to be competitive in my next “open” race against all comers… 2015 Masters!
Picture of the Day
“Hack no more!”
(Thanks for the picture Amber….)
Just a little plug. Today is the doubles race at the Olympics. Tomorrow is the Team Relay. The Team Relay is a really cool event where one man, one woman and one doubles team for each country races. The sliders go in that order and when one finishes a gate opens and the next slider goes. It’s a really really exciting event. Lots of fun to watch. The US has a really good shot at a medal in that race. It takes place tomorrow (Thursday). I highly recommend watching it.